Rhubarb is one of my favorite words, and for good reason: it’s the word of the people. For many years in the film industry for the background noise of the crowd, extras would murmur, exclaim, and kvetch “rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb” at different tones and timbres.
Crowd pleasing and pretty enough for the pictures!
Good enough reason, I’d say, to reintroduce rhubarb to the cocktail party.
Ruby stalks of love have started appearing in the farmers markets in the Willamette Valley. (Gardener tip: don’t discard the leaves from your rhubarb plants; make a natural pesticide instead.) Food blogs across the land have started posting rhubarb recipes. I think back to olden days here at Culinaria Eugenius, when in my rhubarb foolish youth I did the same. Ah, spring.
I was vexed the other day thinking about how rhubarb bleeds its brilliant color when you boil it, leaving a greenish, soggy fruit behind that makes such delights as rhubarb crumble more brown than red. Sure, strawberries are often combined with rhubarb in pies and such to combat the problem. I’m not one to complain about that brilliant combination, and the strawberry brings the red to the party. But strawberries won’t be in season yet until June, and no one wants to eat the California sour red orbs. And what about that lovely rhubarb pink?
Serendipitously, as I was musing with my fingers on keyboard, I came across a brilliant (i.e., thinking the same thing I was but in a better way) post of my new cooking BF, British food writer Nigel Slater, on rhubarb. Not only does he use the adjective “cork-sized,” he suggests taking the edge off Saturday vacuuming by fixing oneself a big glass of rhubarb-gin-n-soda first. Decant bit of rhubarb syrup in a tumbler, he encourages, top it off with a splash of gin and mineral water, and you’ll have a cheerful morning.
See why he’s my new best thing? Check out his column in the London Observer here. Fantastic writing. Simple. Delicious.
In his honor:
- 2 oz. rhubarb syrup*
- 1.5 oz. British gin of your choice
- mineral or soda water
- couple of dashes Fee’s rhubarb bitters (optional)
- grapefruit peel garnish (optional)
In a 12-oz (16-oz? the sky’s the limit) tumbler filled with ice, add your lovely pink rhubarb syrup and gin. Top off with mineral water and a couple dashes of Fee’s rhubarb bitters, if you have them. A grapefruit peel garnish will lend a little bitterness, too, just right for a morning in which you need a drink spring cocktail parties with locavore friends. Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb.
Sweetening rhubarb is a casual affair, and I don’t usually bother measuring, but these approximations should work. This will yield enough rhubarb syrup for several drinks, and a mass of greenish fruit that can be spooned over ice cream, mixed into plain yogurt (my favorite) or just eaten over the sink with a spoon (also my favorite).
- 1 lb. rhubarb
- 2 cups sugar
Chop rhubarb into cork-sized chunks and place in a non-aluminum saucepan. Pour sugar on rhubarb, then add enough water to barely cover the rhubarb (about a cup). Bring up to a boil, then simmer, stirring frequently as the sugar melts, for at least 25 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool for an hour or two.
Strain out the rhubarb solids. If you are picky, you may use a fine-meshed strainer and strain several times to remove the sediment. Set aside solids for another use and pour bright pink liquid into an appropriate bottle. Refrigerate.